Inquiry launched into how wave machine capsized

An investigation is under way today to find out what caused a pioneering wave power machine to overturn off the north Suffolk coast.

An investigation was under way last night to find out what caused a pioneering wave power machine to overturn off the north Suffolk coast.

The 80 tonne demonstration wave generator was left floating loose with the tide off the coast of Southwold on Sunday afternoon after the pontoon which was being used to tow it into position capsized.

It was towed to safety on Sunday and grounded about three miles east of Southwold harbour so that it was out of the way of shipping and remained in the water overnight.

Yesterday, engineers from London-based company Trident Energy, which has created the machine, moved the 16 metre high platform so that they can check for any damage and try to find out what caused the incident.

A Trident Energy spokesman said: “There was a problem with the towing process, which led to the demonstration wave generator overturning as it was being taken out to sea to being its year-long offshore trial.

“It was grounded in a safe place away from shipping and the company has arranged to move it to a safe place to carry out a full assessment.

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“They are just waiting to be able to do a full assessment of the platform, they do not yet know if it is damaged. They are going to do a full investigation.”

She added: “Trident Energy can confirm that the incident was in no way related to its patented technology to convert sea wave energy into electricity. No injuries were sustained during the incident and the company has cooperated fully with the maritime authorities throughout the process.”

The machine, which was made at the Small and Co boatyard in Lowestoft, was due to be set in place off the coast to start a 12 month offshore trial.

Its simple design involved floats moving up and down with the waves to drive generators which then convert the motion into electricity. The machine would be supported by submerged pontoons anchored to the sea bed.

The model was smaller than those ultimately developed for commercial use, which individually could provide enough energy to power about 700 homes.